Beshalach

Exodus 13:17 – 17:16; Haftarah: Judges 4:4 – 5:31

Synopsis –

This week we shall pass through the red-sea (or the “sea of reeds” as it is known in Hebrew) and sing thogether with Moses a song of praise to God. We will not study the song in any detail but focus mostly on the departure of Egypt with all its significance and on the wars that bracket the parasha on both ends. We will learn about a legend hidden in the pages of Scripture that few are aware of but that is referred to in several parts of Scripture concerning the sons of Ephraim departing Egypt ahead of schedule. Finally we study the manna given to the children of Israel with its rich Christological significance.

Scripture references from the episode

Jude 5

“Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.”

Genesis 15:17

“When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.”

External Sources

(Ex 13:17) Targum Pseudo-Jonathan:

And it was when Pharaoh had released the people, that the Lord did not conduct them by the way of the land of the Philistines though that was near; for the Lord said, Lest the people be affrighted in seeing their brethren who were killed in war, two hundred thousand men of strength of the tribe of Ephraim, who took shields, and lances, and weapons of war, and went down to Gath to carry off the flocks of the Philistines; and because the transgressed against the statute of the Word of the Lord, and went forth from Egypt three years before the (appointed) end of their servitude, they were delivered into the hand of the Philistines, who slew them. These are the dry bones which the Word of the Lord restored to life by the hand of Ezekiel the prophet, in the vale of Dura; but which, if they (now) saw them, they would be afraid, and return into Egypt

(Ex 14:15) Origen – Commentary on the Gospel of John 6.101 

But if the mental voice of those who pray should not be extremely loud, though it is not weak, and should they not raise a cry and shout, God still hears those who pray thus. For it is he who says to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me?” when he had not cried out audibly (for this is not recorded in Exodus), but through prayer he had cried out loudly in that voice which is heard by God alone. 

(Ex 16:4) Peter Chrysologus – Sermon 166

The rain of manna fed the Jewish people for forty years in the desert. It did not by its customary service cause an increase of sprouts from the earth but streamed on the earth like harvested grains. It took away all the toil of human labor and by its pleasant dew offered and spread out heavenly produce for the hungry. 

(Ex 16:15) Ambrose – Letter 54(64)

“This is the bread that God gave” to you “to eat.” Hear who this bread is: “The word,” Scripture says, “which God has ordained.” This then is the ordination of God; this food nourishes the soul of the wise. It illuminates and it sweetens, resplendent with the gleam of truth and soothing, as if with a honeycomb, by the sweetness of different virtues and the word of wisdom. For “good words are sweeter than a honeycomb,” as it is written in Proverbs.

(Ex 16:15) Philo of Alexandria – on Flight and Finding 137-139

Those also who have inquired what it is that nourishes the soul, for as Moses says, “They knew not what it was,” learnt at last and found that it was the word of God and the divine reason, from which flows all kinds of instinctive and everlasting wisdom. This is the heavenly nourishment which the holy scripture indicates, saying, in the character of the cause of all things, “Behold I rain upon you bread from heaven;” for in real truth it is God who showers down heavenly wisdom from above upon all the intellects which are properly disposed for the reception of it, and which are fond of contemplation. But those who have seen and tasted it, are exceedingly delighted with it, and understand indeed what they feel, but do not know what the cause is which has affected them; and on this account they inquire, “What is this which is sweeter than honey and whiter than snow?” And they will be taught by the interpreter of the divine will, that “This is the bread which the Lord has given them to eat.” What then is this bread? Tell us. “This,” says he, “is the word which the Lord has appointed.” This divine appointment at the same time both illuminates and sweetens the soul, which is endowed with sight, shining upon it with the beams of truth, and sweetening with the sweet virtue of persuasion those who thirst and hunger after excellence.

(Ex 17:11) Justin Martyr – Dialogue with Trypho 97

Besides, the fact that the prophet Moses remained until evening in the form of the cross, when his hands were held up by Aaron and Hur, happened in the likeness of this sign. For the Lord also remained upon the cross until evening, when he was buried. Then he rose from the dead on the third day. 

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